• Social Services Minister Anne Ruston speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. (AAP)Source: AAP
Stephanie Corsetti

30 Mar 2021 - 4:33 PM  UPDATED 30 Mar 2021 - 4:33 PM

Campaigners for Indigenous women's rights have welcomed the introduction of a Minister for Women's Safety in the federal cabinet, saying it is an important start in the fight against gendered violence.

Senator Anne Ruston has been sworn in as the Minister for Women's Safety while Jane Hume will take on the portfolio of Minister for Women's Economic Security. 

Human rights lawyer and Nyungar woman Dr Hannah McGlade said First Nations voices have long been calling for change, and that the creation of the Women's Safety portfolio showed the government was listening. 

"We know that the rate of violence against Indigenous women in this country is simply unacceptable," she said. 

"It is a matter of serious human rights, it is raised also before UN treaty bodies." 

Dr McGlade says the exact rates of harm were difficult to know because the figures may not reflect actual incidents. 

"According to UN women, one in three Indigenous women worldwide will be a victim of rape or sexual assault."

The anti-violence organisation Our Watch said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience violence at disproportionate rates and it was often more complex and severe in its effects. 

'Change is coming': women across Australia march against gendered violence
First Nations women have been at the forefront of protests across the nation, delivering impassioned calls to arms, and highlighting the ongoing violence experienced by Indigenous women since colonisation.

She said hospitalisations from family violence injuries were high, showing the urgent need to take action. 

Ms McGlade also pointed to the proposal for an enshrined voice in Parliament, saying it would ensure Indigenous communities were properly heard.

"To continue on an advisory-only path, where government can disregard the voices, the knowledge and the rights of Indigenous people to make decision about our futures, including for women... is simply unacceptable and it's not human rights in this country," she said.

Labor MP Linda Burney said dealing with violence against First Nations women may require a different approach.

"Those voices are really important if we're going to have a comprehensive response," she said.

Senator Ruston has previously said everyone had a role to play in preventing disrespectful attitudes towards women and ensuring that they were not learned during childhood.